On a trip to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia in January 2000, filmmaker Anne Bass came across a 16 year old boy who moved her immensely with his amazing and seemingly natural charms and ... See full summary »
On a trip to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia in January 2000, filmmaker Anne Bass came across a 16 year old boy who moved her immensely with his amazing and seemingly natural charms and grace as a dancer. Having been a longtime devotee to the world of dance herself back in the United States, Anne felt compelled to give this young boy the opportunity to leave his home and follow a dream that she felt he hadn't even yet seen for himself. From the serene countryside of Southeast Asia to the halls of the New York's School of American Ballet to the stage of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, DANCING ACROSS BORDERS peeks behind the scenes into the world of dance and chronicles the intimate and triumphant story of a boy who was discovered, and who only much later discovered all that he had in himself. Written by
I spotted Dancing without Borders in my local library because of its absolutely stunning cover: a graceful yet somehow fierce young man in an impossibly high leap across a lush green canvas with Philip Glass playing on a grand piano in the background. It was too striking to ignore. I had never heard of the film before and watched it with no expectations and absolutely no idea about the characters.
The storyline was very simple. A wealthy US dance patron spots a talented Cambodian dancer in a remote village and finances his ballet training in NYC. A ballet super-star is born. But don't be fooled by the simplicity of the story. Dancing across Borders is a very compelling film from start to finish. I just couldn't take my eyes off the screen. Every little sequence is beautifully shot and perfectly narrated. Simplicity can sometimes be very powerful. Dancing Across Borders is a perfect example of just how powerfully artistic story-telling can transform a seemingly simple story into a complex multi-layered tale of the charmed life of Sokvannara "Sy" Sar
The alien nature of ballet as a dance form to Sy is matched by his unfamiliarity with English as a language and compounded by the culture shock of living alone in the US, without any family and very far away from home. The film documents his journey through this absolutely bewildering maze of unique challenges. It weaves its way through his initial shaky steps in ballet (which were incidentally shot just to video-document his progress during dance lessons and not really meant for this film) and showcases his sheer dedication to the dance and his single-minded determination to be better.
The film has this inherent lyricism about how it presents the story. Cambodian as well as western classical music is used extensively to transition between Cambodia and the US. Ballet music adapted for the piano is always quite amazing and the movie has these piano pieces by the spadefuls. Sy's ballet competition and stage performances are beautifully woven into the film and you can actually see how he gradually gets better at the dance form.
Overall, I recommend this film to everyone with an interest in ballet, photography, classical music, any dance or just story-telling. It's a fine showcase for all of these. It's a documentary but is more watchable and fun than most dramatized works of fiction.
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